January 16th, 2009

GEBRSELASSIE WINS RAIN-LASHED STANDARD CHARTERED DUBAI MARATHON

- World Record Bid Washed Out In Dubai Downpour -

Dubai (UAE): Haile Gebrselassie won a rain-soaked Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon yesterday (Friday) storming home in a time of 2h:05m:29s – over a minute outside of his own world record but still the eighth fastest time ever.

The flying Ethiopian went into the race with high hopes of breaking the 2h:03m:59s world record he set last year in Berlin.

But a torrential downpour late  into the race and a slight headwind on the return leg along the Beach Road put paid to his record chances, despite a blistering first half that was 20 seconds inside world record pace

“When conditions get like this and you see the rain, you don’t think about records only about doing the best you can,” admitted Gebrselassie after finishing over two minutes ahead of runner-up Deressa Edae Chimsa (2h:07m:54s). “But there are always positives and this is my best ever time in conditions like these.”

Despite missing out on the US$ 1 million world record bonus on offer from Dubai Holding, Gebrselassie collected a cheque for US$ 250,000 and the winner’s trophy from Mattar Al Tayer, Vice President of Dubai Sports Council. Making it an Ethiopian clean sweep in third place was Eshetu Wendimu in a time of 2h:08m:41s.

Although Gebrselassie put a brave face on failing to beat his world best, there is no doubt he came into the race confident of what would have been world record number 27.

The early splits were good. Geb had indicated that a half marathon mark of 61m:45s would see him bang on record pace and at the half way point the time was exactly that, the pacemakers keeping the legendary runner on course some 20 seconds ahead of his record time.

Unfortunately, the head wind took its toll over the closing 10km, while his troubles increased with a torrential downpour that followed him all the way to the 2,000 cheering Ethiopians gathered at the finish line.

“The weather was not good to the spectators but still the sang to me as I came to the end of the race and I thank them for that,” added Gebrselassie. “I have no complaints today – the race organisation was fantastic but it was not to be.”

Making it an Ethiopian double, the diminutive Bezunesh Bekele claimed the
Women’s US$ 250,000 first prize in a time of 2h:24m:02s, with compatriot Atsede Habtamu Besuye in second (2h:25m:17s) and Kenya’s Helena Kirop in third (2h:25m:35s).

Sponsored by Standard Chartered for the past five years and held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon saw around 10,000 runners take to the streets of Dubai for the Marathon, the 10km and the 3km Fun Run.

Edging the honours in the men’s 10km was Eritrea’s Habtai Kifetsion who clocked the same time as Moussie Weldemichael (30m:12s) with Othmane Chaibi of Marocco third in 30m:32s.

In the women’s event, Emma Philips of Great Britain took first place in 37m:25s, more than two minutes ahead of Finland’s Anne Mari Hyrylainen (40m:12s) with Australian Amanda Peters in third in 41m:31s.

“Haile has again shown what a great champion he is,” said Event Director Peter Connerton. “The weather was terrible over the last portion of the race yet he still set the eighth fastest time in history – and the top three times are his already. I’m sure we all look forward to seeing him come back and win the Dubai event for a third time in a row.”

PUMA once again helped to encourage all the runners by drawing crowds to the PUMA Turn at the half-way point of race. The spirits of the runners were kept sky high as they were met with cheerleaders, music and crowds of supporters to push them on to the second half of the run, while PUMA’s focus on encouraging women to participate was well received at the Puma Women’s Marquee, where all female runners received free pampering treatments.

One female who captured the imagination was Jordanian Abeer Alsharif of the Achilles Track Club, the only female in the wheelchair Marathon, who completed her first ever event in a time of 2h:34m:07s

The Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon is supported by Dubai Holding, The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort and Marina, PUMA, Arab Media Group (AMG), TNT and Fitness First with assistance provided by Dubai Sports Council, RTA, Dubai Municipality and Dubai Police.

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